Ramadas had to sell off some of his property to pay the cinema theatre owners after ‘Newspaper Boy’ failed at the box office.

The year 1955 would always be remembered, as far as Indian cinema is concerned, for the release of ‘Pather Panchali’, Satyajit Ray’s stunning debut that took the world by storm. That very year, a couple of months before the release of the Bengali classic, a Malayalam film made by a group of students in Thrissur too had attempted something drastically different from the kind of movies of the day.

But the man who directed ‘Newspaper Boy’, regarded as the first neo-realistic film in Malayalam, faded away from the limelight, though he made two more films. Pradeep Nair was intrigued by the film-maker and decided to make a documentary on him.

“I wanted to find out what happened to the creativity of a man who could make ‘Newspaper Boy’ at 22 and at a time when there was hardly anything realistic about Malayalam cinema,” Pradeep, director of ‘Oridam’, told The Hindu on Thursday. “He was living at Thrissur at the time, but I was a bit confused when I found the nameplate ‘Advocate P. Ramadas, Notary’, in front of his house at Poonkunnam. In his office room, though, I found more books on cinema than law.”

Pradeep, who filmed the documentary (‘A Neo Realistic Dream’) in 1999, said Ramadas had no regrets that his film made him poorer. “He had to sell off some of his property to pay the cinema theatre owners after the film failed at the box office,” he said. “He told me that two of his friends associated with the film too had to sell off lands.”

Pradeep felt it was remarkable that Ramadas could make ‘Newspaper Boy’ the way he did, though he was not exposed to world cinema, like Ray. “Ramadas was influenced more by the Hindi films of V. Shantaram,” he said. “He had shown the film to Shantaram in Mumbai. He was delighted when Shantaram appreciated it.”

After ‘Newspaper Boy’, Ramadas made ‘Niramala’ and ‘Vadaka Veettile Athithi’, but neither created any ripples. “He was not worried about that; he told me that he directed films because he was passionate, not because he wanted to make money or earn fame,” said Pradeep.

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